LONDON - Microwave burger brand Rustlers racked up 219 complaints that its ad campaign, featuring a woman stripped to her underwear, was sexist, demeaning and could encourage date rape, earning it a partial rap on the knuckles from the advertising watchdog.
The TV ad in question, created by Chemistry, depicts a scene where a man and woman enter the man's flat. After a frosty reception from the woman, the man enters the kitchen and types 70 seconds into his microwave keypad and presses the start button. Once the cooker starts whirring, the sofa spins around and the man is shown grinning.
The camera spins around and the woman, previously wrapped in her coat, is shown lying on the sofa in her underwear and playing with her hair. A voiceover says: "If only everything was as quick as Rustlers. Rustlers, nought to tasty in 70 seconds."
The majority of the 219 complainants thought the ad was offensive, sexist and demeaning to women, portraying them as objects for male gratification or equating them to pieces of meat.
Other viewers thought the ad, by showing the woman's attitude change from one of hostility to one of apparent sexual compliance, perpetuated the idea that when women say "no" it actually means "yes". Viewers were worried that there were undertones of sexual abuse and ads could encourage date rape.
Some viewers thought the timing of the ads, shown in the breaks of family films such as 'Bugsy Malone' and 'Jumanji' and TV shows such as 'Dancing on Ice' and 'You've Been Framed', was unsuitable for broadcast as times when children might be watching.
Rustlers responded by stating that its target market was 18- to 34-year-old males and that the ads were meant to be a fantastical portrayal of their primary target market's life. It said the ads were not intended to portray a real-life situation. It also argued that the ads gave a tongue-in-cheek look at Rustler's core benefit, instant gratification.
The fast food brand also said that it believed portraying women as the object of a man's desire was a recurring theme in advertising. It believed it was a fact of life and argued that the dating scenario in the ads took place every day; they believed the roles played by the man and women were stereotypes.
Rustlers dismissed suggestions that there was an undertone of sexual abuse and that the ads encouraged date rape. It pointed out that the man did not touch the woman and that, when she was in the underwear, he was not in the same room as her.
The ad concluded with the man eating a burger -- seemingly back in reality, not having any success with the woman. Rustlers said it believed this implied heavily enough that the scenario had only happened only in the man's mind.
The BACC did not believe the ads were offensive nor demeaning to women. It said that the fantastical elements of an everyday scenario were obvious enough not to cause offence. The BACC had placed an ex-kids restriction on the ads because it believed it bore a similarity to a lads' mag TV ad, which also garnered an ex-kids certificate.
The Advertising Standards Authority did not uphold the complaints about offending women nor inferred sexual abuse, but did uphold the complaints about the timing of the ads and warned the brand to take more care with scheduling its ads.